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ERIC BOGLE & JOHN MUNRO - "The Emigrant & The Exile"
Greentrax CDTRAX121

The idea behind this album was to celebrate the 10th birthday of Greentrax Recordings with a joint Australian/Scottish production, the theme being a look at Scotland from a distance - both in miles and years - in 14 new songs from Eric Bogle and his long-time accompanist John Munro.

Exiled since 1970 (Munro even longer) Bogle reveals that at times in the writing, the past would jump up out of nowhere and cuff him across the lugs, as he says in Bush-patois, and Scotland seemed very near and very real, yet at other times it seemed a very long way away.

This is, of course, your famous Caledonian antisyzygy, or perhaps in this case an auntie in Sydney, and Bogle concedes that some of the songs may give an exile's view, and may not be a fair reflection of Scotland as she is now. For this he apologises - but not at length or profusely.

The songs were recorded in Adelaide with guitar, bass and mandolin backing before being flown over to Edinburgh where such musical luminaries as Phil Cunningham, Dougie Pincock, Ron Shaw, Duncan MacGillivray and the ubiquitous Brian McNeill - who produced and mixed the album - did their bit.

Topics include My Father the Poacher; an Australia v Scotland World Cup match; a trad border ballad from 1995; a sexual awakening, with the line "Oh, I was her accordion and she was Jimmy Shand," and a 10-minute talking blues which you won't hear on radio. The songs by Munro show, it's claimed, the preoccupations of all middle-aged men who spend too much time either regretting the past or avoiding the future and not enough time getting on with the present. Not guilty, m'lud.

There are some gems worthy of a place in any Best of Bogle classification, such as "One Small Star", for the parents of the Dunblane victims, "Standing in the Light", for his mother, and "Progress", which he prefaces by asking: "Aye, but is it?"

So, the Emigrant and the Exile have looked from afar and expressed a declaration of pride in the place of their birth as well as a scunner at some of its failings. Do they feel Scots or Aussies? Let the last words be with Eric's mum: "If a cat has kittens in the oven, that disnae make them cookies!" Recommended.

Alan Brown
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This album was reviewed in Issue 20 of The Living Tradition magazine.